Smoking during pregnancy

At any point in human reproduction, smoking causes damage to health. Smokers who want to have children have greater difficulty getting pregnant. Their risk of remaining infertile is increased.

Smoking during pregnancy affects the health of both mother and unborn child. The unborn child receives less oxygen, which causes underdevelopment of the foetus and increases the risk of miscarriage, neonatal death, respiratory disease in the offspring, and is probably a cause of mental health problems in the offspring. A pregnant smoker is more likely to suffer complications as well and more likely to have a stillbirth or premature birth.

Children born to smokers often have a low birth weight. Premature birth and low birth weight are major risks for disability and death of a child. Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or who are exposed to second-hand smoke after birth are also more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

In men, smoking damages the genetic material in sperm cells. This can reduce male fertility, lead to complications in pregnancy or cause birth defects.The risk of fertility problems increases with the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Smoking has serious consequences for male fertility. Studies also show that ENDS are not good alternatives and that nicotine and flavorings are associated with many fertility problems in women.

Effects of nicotine during pregnancy

To diminish the effects from cigarette smoking, some women are turning to ENDS, which are largely perceived as safer to use during pregnancy than traditional tobacco cigarettes.

However, nicotine is extremely harmful to the developing foetus through many different mechanisms, and the harms increase with time. Nicotine consumption is associated with a number of foetal disorders and is believed to be a factor in negatively affecting fetal brain development, as nicotine accumulates in the fetus after passing through the placenta.

Other health problems for nicotine-exposed babies during pregnancy include impaired function to reproductive, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, as a result of a reduction in the delivery of both nutrients and oxygen to the developing fetus. Poor academic performance and significant behavioural disruptions are also common, including aggressive behaviours and future substance abuse.

Moreover, fetal nicotine exposure during pregnancy, as well as from breastfeeding, is associated to the development of type 2 diabetes. Thus, evidence overwhelmingly indicates that nicotine should no longer be consumed during pregnancy in any form.


2014 Surgeon General's Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress
Stand April 2021

Leslie FM. Multigenerational epigenetic effects of nicotine on lung function. BMC Medicine 2013;11: 27.

Slotkin TA, Seidler FJ, Spindel ER. Prenatal nicotine exposure in rhesus monkeys compromises development of brainstem and cardiac monoamine pathways involved in perinatal adaptation and sudden infant death syndrome: amelioration by vitamin C. Neurotoxicology and Teratology 2011;33: 431–4.

Holbrook BD. The effects of nicotine on human fetal development. Birth defects research. Part C, Embryo today : reviews 2016;108: 181–92.

Bruin JE, Kellenberger LD, Gerstein HC, Morrison KM, Holloway AC. Fetal and neonatal nicotine exposure and postnatal glucose homeostasis: identifying critical windows of exposure. The Journal of endocrinology 2007;194: 171–8.


Merkblatt: Frauen und Rauchen

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